Nancy Bannon excels at two things: creating handsome, vigorous movement and understanding the awkwardness and despair that plague human relationships. Coupling dancing and text, the works in her concert “It’s a Cruel, Cruel Summer” (Joyce Soho, June) brought both gifts into play—with mixed results. Show, though, a duet for Stephanie Liapis and Netta Yerushalmy, is perfect of its kind. The women, lovers or perhaps alter egos, depict desire, insecurity, betrayal, the hate and rage erotic passion can trigger, and the common, pitiable folly of wanting to be joined and free at the same time. An atypical piece, Nightswimming, casts Limón veteran Nina Watt as—of all things—a tree viciously cut down. Here Bannon’s exquisitely calibrated choreography details the disruption of the thrumming systems that constitute botanical life, while Watt embodies a mute consciousness of the fatal attack—a kind of biological shock and grief—that offered profound ramifications.
Four solos to Schubert songs, all performed by the choreographer, enriched Henning Rübsam’s Sensedance showing (City Center Studio, May 30 through June 3). Two, created a dozen years back, emphasize youth’s lyrical impulse and robust exuberance. You might imagine dancing this way in your living room—if you were beautiful, fluent, strong, full of fantasy, and a graduate of Juilliard. Another pair, recently made, opens the door to darkness with movement that’s tense, angular, and spasmodic. All four evoke the fluctuating moods of the music and lyrics; all four are deftly composed. Not so Rübsam’s ambitious new Garden, for seven women, set to traditional Iraqi music. It does a good job of suggesting an intricate cultural community inhabited by tillers of the soil and odalisques, fiery demons and beneficent goddesses. But it desperately needs focusing and tightening. If only Bessie Schönberg were still with us to set things right! —Tobi Tobias
Fourteen young choreographers presented works at “Joyce Soho Presents: 12 Works Exploring a Range of Worlds” (May). The series showcased a pleasing array of costumes, lighting techniques, and music samples—but the lasting impression was of sameness. Many of the works seemed theory-heavy and inaccessible, especially for audience members new to the cryptic grammar of modern dance. The series was also limited in ethnic or cultural scope—a confusing outcome, considering its title. The sharp, raw energy of Aszure Barton’s solo ROM, however, flew into the limelight with both starkness and vitality. Accompanied by a quick and melodic Hungarian gypsy tune by Rumelaj and the Italian group Faraulla, young Harlem native William Briscoe electrified the audience with dynamic twists, turns, and jumps, magnified by a lone spotlight. The result was four minutes of thoroughly graspable joy. —Paroma Basu